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What the What?! The Affordable Care Act & Choosing a Health Plan

2015 January 31
by Emily Hill

This is a sponsored post for UnitedHealthcare. All thoughts, opinions and attempts to figure out the whole open enrollment thing are mine.

When I hear someone mention the Affordable Care Act (ACA), my brain stops listening and starts planning the rest of the week’s meals or how soon I can hit up Nordstrom Rack and Sonic. We have pretty decent health insurance through Nathan’s work, so I haven’t given the Affordable Care Act much thought, but I know it’s a real source of confusion for many people because it’s all about choosing the right health plan.

With open enrollment ending February 15th for 2015, it’s more important than ever to figure out (ASAP) what it all means for you and your family. And UnitedHealthcare has some really great resources for navigating that crazy enrollment thing.

I wanted to learn a bit more about the history of health insurance, so I watched this little video and learned a couple interesting facts. For example, I didn’t know:

  • Employers started offering health benefits in the early 1940s as a way of circumventing World War II wage and price controls.
  • They were also created by an IRS ruling that said workers who received health benefits did not have to pay income taxes on them.
  • Most companies count health insurance as part of the employee’s compensation. If the employer pays a larger share, they often need to cut compensation somewhere else.

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Okay, I have to share this quick video addressing five myths and facts about healthcare. I had no idea most uninsured people (80%) are actually employed.
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Let’s take a second and put the Act in the simplest terms. Basically it claims to help more people get access to affordable health insurance. The Act also guarantees coverage for pre-existing health conditions and financial assistance for those who qualify. This may include savings on health insurance premiums via a tax credit or a government program such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicare.

That leads us back to that open enrollment thing. This comes up every year at Nathan’s work and I usually feel too overwhelmed to figure it out, so I leave it to him (see first paragraph). I do know a few basics about choosing a health plan that is best for my family, but if you’re struggling, watch this video:
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You’ll also want to ask three important questions when choosing a health plan:

  1. Is your doctor in the plan’s network?
  2. What’s covered?
  3. How much does it cost?

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Now you’re better prepared to choose a health plan, but what are your options? Apparently there’s a whole health insurance marketplace—think of it as the Travelocity of health insurance. The marketplace helps people find health care coverage that fits their needs and ensures all plans being offered meet state and federal guidelines.

Even if you’re getting health insurance through an employer, it’s still helpful to compare how your current health plan stacks up to others offered. You never know…you might be one of the 87% of health insurance exchange applicants who saved $250 a month or more on their health insurance last year. It’s worth it to do a bit of comparing and shopping around before committing to a health plan.

Last but not least, college students. We are just over a year away from sending our first child to college and health insurance options can be tricky for college students. I remember a simple visit to the student health center leading to some tricky (and lengthy) paperwork for my parents. If you need coverage for your college student, this video is for you.
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By the way, if your head starts spinning from all those health insurance terms (OOP limits? co-insurance?), check out UHC’s health insurance glossary.

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats

2015 January 29
by Emily Hill

I first posted these red velvet rice krispie treats in February of 2012 thanks to Tiffany sharing the recipe. It took me three attempts to get it right but it was so worth it. Because my photography skills have improved a bit since then, I thought Valentine’s Day 2015 the perfect opportunity to revamp the recipe and the photos.

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Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats - slight cocoa flavor with a drizzle of white chocolate. Perfect dessert for Valentines Day (or Christmas)!

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These red velvet rice krispie treats are unbelievably easy, but that’s not what I love best about them. What I love best is the light cocoa flavor thanks to a combination of Cocoa Krispies and red velvet cake mix.

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Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats - slight cocoa flavor with a drizzle of white chocolate. Perfect dessert for Valentines Day (or Christmas)!

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Last time I made these, I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter rather than cutting them into squares. It’s totally an awesome option if you feel so inclined. Because these red velvet rice krispie treats are perfect for Valentine’s Day and Christmas, I went with a more generic shape this time. But go crazy if you want! (You can see them as hearts here.)

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a little Valentine’s Day fun with these babies. Just look at what happened when I got a little wild with the white chocolate drizzle.

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Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats - slight cocoa flavor with a drizzle of white chocolate. Perfect dessert for Valentines Day (or Christmas)!

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Okay, maybe it’s more cute than wild, but I did have a lot of fun.

I love any dessert recipe that requires only 5 ingredients (4 required; 1 optional) and less than 20 minutes to prepare. Plus, red velvet rice krispie treats—like “normal” krispie treats—call for ingredients you usually have on hand. Double yay!

Printable recipe for red velvet rice krispie treats below. Enjoy!
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Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Red Velvet
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
These red velvet rice krispie treats have a hint of cocoa flavor and a drizzle of white chocolate. And they're absolutely delicious!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1 (10.5-oz) bag mini marshmallows
  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 6 cups Cocoa Krispies cereal
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large pot.
  2. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.
  3. Add cake mix and stir until thoroughly combined. (I use the back of the spatula to break up any lumps.)
  4. Fold in Cocoa Krispies and stir until cereal is evenly coated.
  5. Spread in pan. Chill 15 minutes in refrigerator.
  6. Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute at 70% power. Stir. (Chips will retain shape while microwaving, so don't overheat!) If not completely melted after stirring, microwave in 10-second increments. Drizzle over cooled treats.
  7. Keep treats tightly covered until ready to serve. (They're best if served the same day.)

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If you’re looking for more dessert-ish yumminess, check out my multiple Desserts {bars & brownies} board on Pinterest.

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Follow Emily Hill’s board desserts {bars & brownies} on Pinterest.

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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Infinite Lash: Does It Really Work?

2015 January 28
by Emily Hill

This is a sponsored post for Infinite Lash. All thoughts, opinions and healthier, longer lashes are mine.

I’ve never really worried much about my eyelashes. They’re not the fullest or longest or thickest, but that’s my mascara’s job. I’ve heard of expensive eyelash serums but was never interested in forking out the money. Again, mascara seemed a much more affordable option. But for many people, mascara just doesn’t cut it and they’re looking for healthier, bigger, bolder, longer lashes. That’s where Infinite Lash Eyelash Enhance Serum comes in.
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Infinite Lash is a “unique eyelash serum infused with a blend of vitamins, minerals, polypeptides, and botanicals to nourish and rejuvenate your natural lashes and brows. Apply to lash line twice daily for 6 weeks, then nightly after. Results in only 2 weeks. Each tube is a 3-month supply.”

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Infinite Lash review - does it really work?
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But does Infinite Lash really work? You know I’m all about the honest review, and so I’m going to be completely honest.

It does.

But it takes a while. And don’t expect Jennifer Lopez-worthy lashes. (That takes a serious makeup crew.) But you can expect shinier, healthier, fuller, thicker lashes. You just gotta give it some time.

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Infinite Lash review - does it really work?
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To be honest, I was skeptical about Infinite Lash for the first couple weeks. It wasn’t until week three or four I finally noticed my lashes truly were looking longer AND I wasn’t losing eyelashes as often as I usually do. Plus, I don’t know if this is totally in my head, but I swear my mascara goes on better and smoother than before. Basically Infinite Lash gave my already awesome mascara a power boost!

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Infinite Lash review - does it really work?
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If you’re looking for a more affordable way to get amazing lashes, Infinite Lash Eyelash Enhance Serum is worth a try. Just remember to withhold judgement the first few weeks.

If you’ve tried Infinite Lash, I’d love to hear about your experience with it!

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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One Word Goal for 2015: BREATHE

2015 January 26
by Emily Hill

Today I’m on the Snap blog sharing my One Word Goal for 2015: BREATHE.

Sharing it makes me all the more accountable to achieve it, right?

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one word breathe quote

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I’d love for you to read my full post and discover how I’m hoping to take something I do without thinking and turn it into something that will help me become a better wife, mom and ME.

You’ll also discover my few exceptions to the BREATHE rule. I’m pretty sure you have a few of your own…

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If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my “inspire me” Pinterest board.

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Follow Emily Hill’s board inspire me on Pinterest.

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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A Bit of Swim Team Motivation {FREE printable}

2015 January 24
by Emily Hill

This year the captains of the high school swim team decided it would be fun to decorate swim team members’ lockers on meet days. My first day was Thursday, and with it being near the end of swim season, I wanted to find some sort of motivational swimming quote.

Instead I chose one that was a bit more in your face…because my daughter’s high school swim team gets very little respect around these parts.

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Swimming quote - love this one!

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I created this swimming quote using PicMonkey (my fave) and designed it as a 5×7 size so it would easily fit their 6-inch-wide lockers. I had it printed on glossy cardstock and absolutely love how it turned out.

If you have a swimmer on a school team, this would be a really fun quote to hang in his/her locker.

Or plaster up and down the high school halls.

To download the 5×7 PDF (two quotes per page), click on the image and save the file to your desktop. But before you do, please read the following rules:

  • Is This Really My Life printables are for personal use only.
  • If you decide to re-post or use the image, you MUST cite the source and include a link to this post.
  • Personalization and other customizing is not available on free printables; they’re offered “as-is.”

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Swimming quote - love this!

Download FREE printable swimming quote HERE.

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If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my “inspire me” Pinterest board.

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Follow Emily Hill’s board inspire me on Pinterest.

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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Chinese Almond Cookies

2015 January 22
by Emily Hill

Forever ago—we’re talking like 10 years—I got on this kick to celebrate holidays that usually went unobserved in our family. One of the holidays we celebrated was Chinese New Year. Along with fortune cookies and not-so-authentic Chinese food, I made a batch of Chinese thumbprint cookies. They were a huge hit!

This time around I thought it would be fun to try Chinese almond cookies because I absolutely adore anything almond flavored. (Guard your bear claws, my friends.)

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Chinese almond cookies for Chinese New Year

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I love these Chinese almond cookies because they’re chewy on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside with just the right amount of almond flavor.

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Chinese almond cookies

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The recipe calls for 1-inch balls of cookie dough, which gives you about 5 dozen cookies. But I’m all about cutting my workload in half (and doubling the size of my cookies), so I went with my usual cookie dough scoop. I ended up with about 2 1/2 dozen cookies once baked but only 2 dozen when the kids got home from school. I’m not sure what happened…

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Chinese almond cookies

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The entire family loved these cookies. And guess what? They taste yummy frozen. If you’re lucky enough to have some left over, I suggest placing them in a Ziploc bag and hiding them in the very back of the freezer, bottom shelf.

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Chinese almond cookies

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One thing to note about this recipe: It uses an egg white wash for that added sheen. I found the best way to apply it without removing the sliced almonds atop the cookies was to load up the pastry brush with wash and press down as you brush. You’ll lose a sliced almond or two but you can easily return it atop the cookie.

Printable recipe for Chinese almond cookies below.
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Chinese Almond Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cookie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 32
 
These Chinese almond cookies are a fun way to celebrate Chinese New Year. For smaller cookies, roll into 1-inch balls. You'll yield about twice as many cookies.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp real almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Sliced almonds
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ tsp water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Beat egg white and water in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and almond extract.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
  5. Take a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Gently flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass.
  6. Sprinkle each cookie with almond, gently pressing almond into dough. Gently brush egg white mixture over cookies.
  7. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until edges and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

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You might also like these cookies (all hits with the family)…

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Chocolate chip Twix cookies


Chocolate chip Twix cookies

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Chocolate sprinkle cookies


Chocolate sprinkle cookies

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Chocolate caramel pretzel cookies


Chocolate caramel pretzel cookies

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Brown sugar pecan cookies


Brown sugar pecan cookies

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Triple chocolate grasshopper cookies -- chocolate cookie with semisweet chips, dark chocolate chunks and Andes Chocolate Mints melted on top. So good!


Triple chocolate grasshopper cookies

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If you’re looking for more yummy cookies, browse my desserts {cookies} Pinterest board.

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Follow Emily Hill’s board desserts {cookies} on Pinterest.

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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Refresh Your Car: Because Your Steering Wheel is Covered in Bacteria {GIVEAWAY}

2015 January 21
by Emily Hill

This is a sponsored post for Refresh Your Car. All thoughts, opinions and newly sanitized and refreshed minivan are mine.

I’m the proud owner of a 2007 Honda Odyssey, which means I’m also the (not so) proud owner of all kinds of “treasures”—cup holders rimmed with sticky soda, a plethora of kid germs and the not-so-fresh smell of Converse worn in PE…and then some. You say Refresh Your Car automotive wipes sanitize, protect and refresh?

Heck to the yes I want to give them a test drive.

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Refresh Your Car review
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See those wipes in the background? Those are the newest product line from Refresh Your Car. These anti-bacterial wipes kill 99.9% of bacteria without bleach. Believe it or not, bleach can do serious damage to your car’s interior (kind of like kids). And guess what else? Researchers have discovered the typical steering wheel has 9 times more bacteria than a public toilet. NINE TIMES.

Let me break these anti-bacterial wipes down for you.

  • Clean Wipes: Kill 99.9% of bacteria while leaving behind a clean, refreshing scent and natural finish.
  • Detail Wipes: Kill bacteria, leave a fresh scent, provide a matte finish and include a sun blocking agent to protect your car’s interior.
  • Protect Wipes: Leave a medium finish while protecting interior surfaces form damage and sun; also kill bacteria and leave a fresh scent.
  • Leather Wipes (my fave!): Enhance leather and increase longevity of leather surfaces; include same antibacterial an odor-eliminating features of its fellow wipes.

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But wait! What are those fun air fresheners I see? You have your odor-eliminating auto vent stick

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Refresh Your Car review
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…which Madison snagged and put in her car for that “new car” smell (a pretty big task considering it’s a 1996 Toyota Avalon with close to 250k miles).

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Refresh Your Car review
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You also have my favorite of the bunch, the oil diffuser in two scents, strawberry and lemonade.

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Refresh Your Car review
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I promptly popped that baby into my air vent.

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Refresh Your Car review
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I love the oil diffuser so much more than the standard adjust-the-plastic-wrap tree thanks to a consistent, light, non-overpowering smell.

Nathan loves it because an annoying dangling cardboard tree is no longer getting in the way of his Grand Prix driving moves.

Let’s not forget the most adorable of the Refresh Your Car auto fresheners, the scented daisy.

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Refresh Your Car review
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I’m so very tempted to sneak that scented daisy into Nathan’s car when he’s not looking. Man card? What man card?

But back to the Refresh Your Car anti-bacterial wipes, in particular, the ones made for leather interiors.

I. Love. These. Wipes. So much so, in fact, I took a fancy photo while waiting for the kids after school.

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Refresh Your Car review
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In the past I’ve used a damp cloth and some sort of sprayable cleaning agent or (GASP!) Clorox wipes to clean my car’s interior. Neither one is an optimal solution for cleaning and maintaining leather but I didn’t think much about it until I tried the leather-friendly automotive wipes from Refresh Your Car.

I can tell these things clean and condition because my leather has never looked so good aside from normal wear and tear. (I blame jeans with button-flap pockets and booster seats.) And believe you me, that leather is conditioned. How do I know? Because I slip and slide on the driver’s seat for a good two or three days once I’ve wiped down the seats.

It kind of reminds me when my dad would swerve the ol’ station wagon and we’d go flying sans seat belts in the very back. Good times!

Thanks to this review, I’ve been convinced of the error of my Clorox-wipe ways and am now officially in love with Refresh Your Car wipes and oil diffusers. If only Refresh Your Car could do something about Goldfish cracker crumbs, wayward crayons and errant hair accessories…

Now it’s time to give you the chance to test drive some of these amazing Refresh Your Car products.
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One (1) lucky ITRML reader will win a Refresh Your Car!® package that includes lots of fun products and a $50 iTunes gift card!

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You can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.
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